Perhaps buoyed by another al-Qaeda chapter’s series of high-profile assassinations against writers and free-thinkers deemed to be anti-Islamic, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula dedicated the cover of its new English-language magazine to teaching “lone mujahid” how to achieve a “level of professionalism” in staging targeted hits in America and beyond.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent recently killed a USAID worker and his friend in Bangladesh because they edited and wrote an LGBT magazine. The attack followed the pattern of AQIS attacks that began in February 2015 with the machete murder of an American citizen, writer Avijit Roy of Georgia, on a Dhaka street. Roy ran a blog featuring atheist, humanist and nationalist writers.
AQIS, which formally launched in 2014 after al-Qaeda brought various militant groups from India to Bangladesh and Myanmar under its umbrella, has explicitly detailed why they’ve picked certain writers and activists as their targets — those they believe have insulted Islam and stand in the way of submission to Shariah law.
In the new issue of AQAP’s Inspire magazine, jihadists are schooled in “hitting the target efficiently with optimum cost and best result.”
AQAP, which has singled out wealthy Americans such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet or symbolic targets such as former Treasury Secretary Ben Bernanke in past issues, urges American jihadis to go for targets — whether on the terror group’s hit list or not — that “consequently and strategically realize the main goals to economically exhaust America.”
Assassins are urged to start with “a dummy target, to train on how to collect real information for your assassination operation. For example, you can gather information about your manager at work, clerk or any other personality that you can practice on.”
“One of the professional aspects in assassination operations is to discover ways that will make you closer to the target at a time when he feels to be in safety and thus takes less precautionary measures,” continues the article, bylined from the External Operations Team at AQAP. “For example one might disguise himself to suite a particular personality in a particular environment. Imagine yourself disguised as an old man, walking and leaning with a stick; what will be the first impression and feeling of the targeted person? No doubt, he will feel safe; rather than disguising in an identity of a strong, well-built youth wearing sunglasses. Therefore, you have to be wise in your disguise.”
“Professionalism is in hiding the traces of the one carrying out the operation, fingerprints and signs that could be traced back to him. This will depend on your knowledge of the sciences and methods used by the authorities,” the piece states, going into ballistics and suggesting jihadists watch crime documentaries to get a feel for forensic pathology and crime-scene processing.
“Professionalism in executing the operation, is in knowing the kill spots on the body and how to swiftly and accurately striking them with your weapon, therefore you need to do more practice with your weapon.” Firing ranges in the U.S. and hunting trips are suggested.
Practice is urged in the guise of “the form of jokes and fun,” such as breaking into a co-worker’s home as a prank and placing fireworks inside or lying in wait for a “friendly target” with a paintball gun.
“You can imitate an operation with a colleague, such as placing fireworks into his bedroom. This is the main goal of the operation that imitate the reality, and at night when he goes to bed, the firework start exploding. Planning for this requires gathering enough information about the friend, knowing the time he gets in and out of the house, when is the house empty,” the article suggests. “You will need a suitable way to enter the house and place the firework inside his room, under the bed or in books, table or under the chair. Making the fireworks explode either by trickery or timing. Of course, all this will be in the form of jokes and fun.”
The site of the attack should take into account the “clear message” it sends, such as the Charlie Hebdo attack, al-Qaeda said, the amount of security and “the ability to hide the traces of the one carrying out the operation and securing a safe withdrawal.” The example put forth for the last element was Washington sniper John Allen Muhammad, who “did several assassination operations in different times, and the main reasons which enabled him to do so is his choice of a suitable place, weapon and the method used which allowed him to hide the place of shooting.”
The article details how to assassinate a target at their home — “you can obtain any documents that point to the place of the target through his transactions such as laundry or a restaurant etc” then “innovate and decide your suitable security cover.”
“For example if the existence of a street cleaner or a hawker in front of the house is normal then you have to imitate that identity, and if you are able to hide under thick trees of the house garden and make observations from there, it will enable you to collect the information safely.” The magazine tells jihadis to use hidden cameras, drones and programs such as Google Earth to collect information on a target’s habits and property.
Inspire magazine, which gave the Boston bombers the recipe for their pressure-cooker bombs, offers three new “recipes” for assassins. There’s a parcel bomb using a thick book inside to conceal a pipe bomb — al-Qaeda even gets into how to gift-wrap the package, and safety tips on how to not blow oneself up while making the bomb. There’s a magnetic car bomb activated by the wind underneath as the vehicle picks up speed. And there’s a trap bomb intended to detonate when the victim opens a door.
Yahya Ibrahim, known as the only surviving original editor of Inspire magazine, opened the issue with an editor’s letter highlighting proper assassination education for lone jihadis.
“Today America is in a season of presidential elections, which will define the winning party to the presidency. This may cause a slight difference to the American citizens but for us it is still the same story; this is because between a foolish candidate that openly declare his enmity towards Islam and a candidate pretending to be a friend of Islam, thousands of Muslims continue to die as a result of the inhuman American policies in Islamic lands,” Ibrahim wrote, decrying “the dirty politics of America, led by the Democratic Party under the leadership of Obama.”
“And on the other hand we have the republicans, who openly kill, fight and declare enmity towards Islam under the banner of the crusade. The Democrats smile at the Muslims while stabbing them at their backs.”
Ibrahim added that “they fight us under the name of Democracy, they wage war at the very core of our Islamic culture and identity, they consider everything contradicting Democracy as radical and fundamental.”
“It is of course impossible for them to just allow us to rule by Shariah,” he wrote. “Therefore, the eventual result is that fighting will continue until we remove this oppressive and dominant plague, America, upon the Muslims . We are fighting a Holy war with America.”